January 14, 2002
3900 Civilian Casualties Raises Questions: How Justly
Is This War Conducted? Were There No Alternatives?

A new study begs for those questions to be asked in the U.S., documenting Afghani civilian casualties of U.S. bombings from October 7 to December 29, 2001.

In Afghanistan, with one-tenth the population of the U.S., there are have been at least 3767 civilian casualties of U.S. bombing from Oct 7 to Dec 10, and then at least another 192 from Dec 10 to Dec 29, 2001. Using conservative methods, Professor Marc Herold has produced two studies of civilian casualties between those respective dates. To put this in perspective, that would be proportional to almost 40,000 civilians killed in the U.S.

Professor Marc Herold teaches in the Departments of Economics and Women's Studies at the Whittemore School of Business & Economics, University of New Hampshire. He culled information from news agencies, major newspapers, and first-hand accounts, and cross-tabulated the results. For each day since October 7, when the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan began, he lists the number of casualties, location, type of weapon used, and source(s) of information. Whenever he could not find the reports in agreement on the numbers, he chose the smaller one. And he did not count those who died later from wounds, nor as a subsequent result of damage to the civilian infrastructure, like hospitals, relief agencies, or water systems.

There has been little coverage in the U.S., but one exception is the Houston Chronicle (12/21/01). "Herold’s data should lead us to a fuller discussion of a number of questions: How precise are our precision weapons, which account for about 60 percent of the bombs being dropped? What about the effects of the conventional ‘dumb’ bombs that make up the other 40 percent? What are the effects on civilians of indiscriminate weapons such as cluster bombs, which Human Rights Watch has argued should be banned? Are the military’s methods an indication that U.S. planners simply don’t value the lives of Third World people?" For the full story, please see www.commondreams.org/views01/1222-03.htm

His studies have had increasing coverage abroad, including the Irish Times, the Times of London, the Guardian (UK), and the Sidney Morning Herald (Australia), which wrote on January 12, 2002:

"Dr. Herold says the strategy of using air strikes to support local ground forces is designed to minimise American casualties without regard to civilian deaths. Only one American soldier has died from enemy fire. ‘The critical element remains the very low value put upon Afghan civilian lives by US military planners and the political elite, as clearly revealed by the US willingness to bomb heavily populated regions,’ he writes. ‘The hollowness of pious pronouncements by [Defence Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld, [National Security Adviser Condoleezza] Rice and the compliant corporate media about the great care to minimise collateral damage is clear for all to see." For the full story, please see www.smh.com.au/news/0201/12/world/world11.html

The easiest-to-read version of his initial study with charts and graphs, covering October 7 to December 10, can be found at www.media-alliance.org/mediafile/20-5/index.html

Links to media coverage of this study, and the second study covering December 10 to 29, 2001, can be found at www.cursor.org/stories/civilian_deaths.htm